Is pitching ‘by committee’ the future of UK baseball after Ole Miss loss?


Kentucky Wildcats pitcher Tyler Guilfoil (14) pitches during the UK vs. Morehead State baseball game on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 7-5. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky baseball (17-10) was defeated 2-1 by No. 10 Ole Miss (18-7) on Friday, a surprisingly low final score after UK lost its Friday night starter Cole Stupp to a season ending injury.

Stupp pitched one week prior against then No. 14 Georgia, offering a solid start before removing himself from the game after seeming to injure something in his forearm.

Before the series had concluded, just two days later, Stupp was declared shut down for the remainder of the year.

Entering a midweek game against Eastern Kentucky, usual Tuesday pitcher Seth Logue once again took the mound as scheduled, a puzzling sight for those who expected Kentucky head coach Nick Mingione to slide his midweek guy into the Friday role.

“We made the decision that Seth was going to start for us this week so he would not be an option for this weekend,” Mingione said. “We just felt like it was important to keep Seth on his normal routine and give him the opportunity in the midweek.”

The decision appeared to be a good one, as Logue struggled on the mound, continuing his recent streak of doing so, pitching just 2.2 innings and eventually taking the loss with four earned runs allowed.

Entering Friday night’s matchup, many were puzzled to see graduate student Mason Hazelwood listed as Kentucky’s starter, with Hazelwood only having pitched a total of 3.1 innings on the season after returning from a lengthy injury break.

Hazelwood did however offer a strong showing on the mound against the Rebels, only allowing two hits and one run, unearned, while striking out two batters during his two innings.

After the conclusion of the second inning, Mingione revealed his true plan of action, relieving Hazelwood in favor of sophomore Ryan Hagenow.

Hagenow picked up right where Hazelwood left off, not allowing a single Rebel hit while only walking one batter and securing five strikeouts.

Again, Mingione refused to commit to one guy, pulling Hagenow after three innings on the bump in favor of junior Tyler Guilfoil.

With it now apparent that Mingione was relying heavily on a ‘by committee’ style of pitching, dispersing the pitching load evenly on several arms, Guilfoil was not expected to close out the game for the Wildcats by any stretch, but rather just to remain sturdy until it’s time for him to clock out.

Guilfoil, like Hazelwood and Hagenow before him, played his role to perfection, pitching 2.1 innings and only allowing one hit while notching four more strikeouts.

After Guilfoil had done his time, the remainder of the workload was offered to graduate student Sean Harney who, despite taking the loss on the mound for the Wildcats, still filled his role as expected.

Harney pitched 1.2 innings, allowing two hits for one earned run, and notched three strikeouts during his tenure, bringing the final total up to 14 strikeouts for Kentucky.

Though he lost the game for the Wildcats on the box score, Harney showed resilience on the mound, notching back-to-back strikeouts in the top of the ninth after giving up a lead-off triple to start the inning, with much of the blame for the extra base hit having to rest on the left fielder and not the pitcher.

Mingione shared the sentiment, refusing to blame Harney for the loss or even express concern that the team didn’t come out on top.

“Every guy we ran out there I was pleased with,” He said. “Good to get Mason back out there, that’s the longest he’s gone since the surgery, and he gave us two innings. I thought Ryan was fantastic, Tyler Guilfoil was great, and Harney even made pitches. If you told me we’d give up two runs before the game, I’d say I’ll take it against that offense.”

Though many will see the outcome as a failure for the committee’s pitching effort, the opposite could be argued to be true, with the Rebels averaging around 10 runs per game prior, and being held to just two in Lexington.

Kentucky’s pitchers can hardly be blamed for the loss, with the Wildcats having entered the game 13-3 when they had allowed five or fewer runs.

As a team, Kentucky was only able to muster three hits on offense, the more likely culprit responsible for the losing effort, unable to take advantage of the stellar night on the mound.

While the sample size is quite small, with only one example, Kentucky’s decision to opt for a committee style of pitching rather than plugging a bullpen or midweek starter in the Friday slot appears to have been the right call.

“It’s one of those deals where as soon as Cole went down we just immediately put our heads together,” Mingione said. “We were just going to try to figure out who else we can go to, and those were the guys we decided upon this week. Every week is different, but we felt like those guys were gonna give us the best chance and boy was I proud of them, they threw the ball exceptionally well.”

Allowing two runs to the former No. 1 team in the country is more than ideal in a conference as rigorous as the SEC, and provided a lot of optimism to a team that lost one of its most important starters for the remainder of the season.

“Our guys, we execute, and when we execute well we can play with anyone,” Mingione said. “I think tonight was a really good example of that. It was one of those games, like which team is going to get the hit?  Give them credit, they did.”

Kentucky looks for a bounce back game on Saturday, April 2, in game two against Ole Miss, with first pitch scheduled for 2 p.m. EST from Kentucky Proud Park in Lexington.